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Paul A H

English Electric Lightning F.2A - 1:72 Airfix

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Paul A H    2,109

English Electric Lightning F.2A

1:72 Airfix


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The astonishing pace of aeronautical development in the 20th century is perhaps best underlined by the contrast between the capabilities of aircraft designed either side of the Second World War. The story of the English Electric Lightning is one such example of this. Borne out of the realisation that Britain's post-war aircraft defences were completely unable to cope with the threat of fast, high-flying, yet comparatively conventional jet bombers in the same class as the Canberra, the resulting aircraft was a quantum leap over the aircraft in service just ten or so years before. Extreme performance requirements called for radical design solutions, which in turn necessitated the construction of two different development aircraft to test low-speed (Short SB.5) and high speed (English Electric P.1A and P.1B) qualities.

Once the design was satisfactorily refined, the first Lightning proper, the F.1, rolled out of the factory. Its dramatic design, characterised by thin, sharply swept wings and sleek fuselage, offered superb performance but left relatively little room for fuel. This meant that although very fast, the early Lightnings were suitable only for point defence. The design was steadily refined though, through the F.1A and F.2 to the much more capable F.3, which featured more powerful engines and a new radar and weapons system. In order to address the woeful endurance exacerbated by the more powerful Avons, the F.3A introduced a larger ventral fuel tank and kinked wing leading edges which also contained larger fuel tanks. The F.6, which featured jettisonable fuel tanks over the wing, was considered to be the ultimate incarnation of the Lightning, but the F.2A was the last to enter service. It was an upgrade to the F.2 which incorporated many of the features of the F.6 but utilised the same A.I.23 radar and Firestreak missiles of the version from which it was developed.

The Lightning follows hot on the heels of a number of excellent kits of famous Cold War jets from the Margate manufacturer, including the Vampire T.11 and GR.1 and GR.3 Harriers. Inside the bright red top-opening box are four sprues of light grey plastic and one small clear sprue which together hold a total of 92 parts. The airframe is covered in the crisp, sharp surface details which creates a very favourable and reassuring first impression. When I reviewed the Harrier GR.1, I suggested that debates about Airfixs panel lines could be consigned to history. This kit certainly reinforces that view.

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The cockpit is pretty good and is comprised of a tub, a four-part Martin Baker Mk.4 ejection seat, a control column and instrument panel. Decals are provided for the cockpit instruments as the instrument panel and side consoles are devoid of raised detail, as are the fuselage sidewalls. The cockpit fits inside the fuselage on top of a fairly large sub-assembly which is made up of the engine intake trunking, nose gear bay/nosecone and engine compressor face. Only the lower of the two Avon engines has the compressor blades moulded in place, but I doubt you'll be able to see much once the fuselage halves have been joined anyway. The front of the nosecone is moulded as a separate part, and Airfix recommend you place at least 4 grams of weight inside the radar fairing in order to prevent the model from being a tail sitter. All in all, everything fits together much like a scaled down version of the kit's older, larger brother. I'd be tempted to leave the nosecone off until the end as it will be easier to paint separately and allows a little wriggle room just in case you haven't added enough nose weight.

Before the fuselage halves can be joined, the staggered jet exhausts must be assembled. This sub-assembly is made up of vertically split double jet pipes, a bulkhead on which are moulded the reheat flame holders of the Avon engines. The jet exhaust nozzles themselves are reasonably good, but could probably be improved upon by the aftermarket producers. Once these steps are complete, the fuselage halves can be joined. A quick test fit of these parts reveals a nice, tight fit. Once plus point is the design of the fin, which is moulded to the port fuselage half only, thus cutting down on the time you will have to spend cleaning up seams.

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The front portion of the belly tank is next. This part has had to be split vertically owing to its bulbous shape, and is clearly designed to with the forthcoming F.6 in mind. With the fuselage halves joined, the wings and tail planes can be fitted. The wings are nicely moulded and feature the same fine, crisp surface details as the fuselage. The flaps are moulded separately, and while it is handy to have this feature, they are rarely seen dropped on the real thing when it is on the ground. The all-moving tail planes are each moulded in one piece and join to the fuselage via pins on which they can be pivoted into the required position.

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With the major components of the airframe in place, the remaining stages of construction are taken up with the smaller details. The inserts for the muzzles of the nose mounted 30mm cannons are moulded separately, again with a nod to the forthcoming F.6. The undercarriage is nicely covered, with separate landing gear bay doors provided for landing gear up and landing gear down options. The landing gear itself is nicely reproduced, with sharp details and subtle flat spots on the tyres. The airbrakes are moulded as separate parts, which is a bonus, although I have heard that they don't fit particularly well if you wish to glue them in the closed position. I haven't had a chance to check this for myself yet, but hopefully it will just be a case of cleaning the parts up in order to achieve a more position fit.

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Ordnance is covered by a pair of De Havilland Firestreak air-to-air missiles, each made up of five parts with a clear plastic nosecone. Finishing touches in include the air-to-air refuelling probe, the pitot tube and some vents, intakes and blade aerials. A FOD guard for the engine intake is included too, which is a nice bonus.

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The clear parts are pretty good, with nice clear frame lines and well controlled distortion. Mine contains a flaw in the form of a line which looks like it was caused by the two waves of molten plastic meeting in the mould.

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Two options are provided for on the decal sheet:
English Electric Lightning F.2A, No. 19 Squadron, Gutersloh, RAF Germany, late 1974. This aircraft was flown by Wing Commander R.K. Barcilon and was finished in Dark Green over natural metal with low visibility markings; and
English Electric Lightning F.2A, No. 92 Squadron, Gutersloh, RAF Germany, August 1972. This aircraft was flown by Wing Commander J.B. Mitchell and was finished in overall natural metal with a blue fin and spine.
The decals, advertised on the side of the box as being printed by Cartograf, look excellent and include a comprehensive range of stencils.

Conclusion

The rejuvenated Airfix shifted into top gear with kits like the recent Harriers and Gladiators. The long-awaited Lightning continues this rich vein of form. It is a beautifully moulded, high quality kit with relatively few flaws. The accurate shape, generally positive fit and fine surface detail makes this kit a real winner. Highly recommended to all of those who have waited patiently for a decent Lightning for so long.

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Review sample courtesy of logo.gif

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alex    1,206

Thanks for the excellent review. Would be nice to see a side-by-side-comparison with the Trumpeter kit...

Alex

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Paul A H    2,109

Unfortunately I cut the tail away from my Trumpeter kit and replaced it with the Aires resin corrected version so I can't really compare them. It may never get finushed now :)

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Windy    70

Great review, I already have a pile of Frightning in the stash waiting. I just wonder what aftermarket sets will be released for it.

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Great review Paul, I have one under construction and I agree with everything you say. No comparison with the old F1 that I built 50 years ago! It's going together without any problems at all. I have used a resin seat as although the kit seat is quite acceptable it lacks any real detail (no belts etc.) I can't really see what else might be achieved with aftermarket goodies. It's excellent straight out of the box!

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